More Than Sad: Birthday Depression Is Real
Birthdays are supposed to be exciting, aren’t they? Unfortunately, for many of us, they are events that trigger depression, anxiety, and stress in general. Given that I happen to be one of those folks who suffer from birthday blues, I can tell you that just like clinical depression, birthday depression too is real and not a choice.
What Birthday Depression is (And Isn’t)
As I mentioned in the title of this article, birthday depression is beyond feeling sad. It is a kind of depression that affects people before, during, or after their birthday. In my experience, it is just as crippling as clinical depression, which Tanya J. Peterson has explained perfectly here. Thankfully, it doesn’t last as long; birthday blues typically disappear after a few days or at most, a week.
However, just because it is short-lived does not mean it is easy to handle. The fact that people will guilt you for being ungrateful and force toxic positivity on you makes things even more difficult.
How It Affects Me
Full disclosure: I recently « celebrated » my 30th birthday. Since it was a milestone birthday that also happened to be in the middle of a pandemic, you will be right if you guessed it was one of my worst birthdays ever. Yes, despite being treated to thoughtful gifts and greetings, I was down in the dumps. Even though I appreciated the benevolence of my loved ones, I felt anxious, depressed, irritable, ashamed, and indifferent. This strange, contradictory mixture of emotions showed up four days before my D-day, and persisted up until three days after.
When to Seek Help
My birthday depression was no longer around when I woke up this morning. It took seven days to disappear, as opposed to last year’s four days. I’ve been consistently blue on my birthdays since the past few years, yet I still feel guilty about it sometimes. So this is as much an affirmation to myself as it is to you: it is absolutely okay to not be in a celebratory state of mind on your birthday. Even if the people around you are unempathetic or judgmental, you do not have to pretend to be happy just to fit in. If being true to yourself makes you look like the craziest person in the world (which you certainly aren’t), then so be it. After all, it is your big day, not theirs.
Be kind to yourself, celebrate the littlest wins to improve your mood, and be patient because this too shall pass. That said, it is important to monitor the duration of your birthday blues. If it becomes unbearable or worsens, make sure to consult a mental health professional.
How do you deal with a case of the birthday blues? Please let me know in the comments below.